The new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) treated the world with this detailed image of Jupiter and its surroundings on Monday. This image of Jupiter is unique in that it simultaneously displays bright details of Jupiter and fainter details of its surroundings in one image. The image was taken with near infrared camera On board the ship is edited by amateur astronomer Judy Schmidt.
JWST is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built and is the result of a collaboration between the United States (NASA), Europe (European Space Agency) and Canada (CSA). Due to its large mirror (6.5 meters wide), the JWST is more sensitive than its predecessor, Hubble.
JWST provides so much detail that Jupiter’s dark rings can also be seen. The light emitted by those rings is a million times weaker than that of the planet itself. Two of Jupiter’s 10 moons can also be seen: Amalthea and Adrastea, two white dots to the left of the image. Adrastea is only twenty kilometers in diameter. The faint white dots below are thought to be distant galaxies.
The aurora borealis can be seen at both poles. The white vortex to the right below Jupiter’s equator is known as the Great Red Spot, and it is a hurricane so large that it could theoretically swallow up the Earth. The storm is white in this image due to the reflection of sunlight. Small oval spots are smaller storms.
While the Great Red Spot and other storms have been imaged before, JWST offers planetary scientists a new perspective. JWST shoots infrared. People cannot see it with the naked eye. By watching the aurora borealis, the Great Red Spot, and other storms in infrared light, planetary scientists learn about their chemical composition and temperature.
In the image of Jupiter above, made up of multiple images from JWST, the aurora borealis appear as an orange glow at both poles. The yellow and green regions are hanging nebulae around the poles.
The bright areas of the image are higher than the dark areas. The bright white streaks and spots are likely high cloud tops. Dark areas, such as just above the equator, are likely to be less cloudy.
To bring out detail in the image, amateur astronomer Judy Schmidt added false colors to the image.
A version of this article also appeared in August 24, 2022
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